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In this chapter five main themes emerge with respect to the historiographical side of Grotius' works: (1) the polarity between constitutionalism and patriotism on the one hand, and reason of state and Scepticism on the other; (2) Grotius’ ‘secularising’ reading of history; (3) the close correlation between scholarship and politics; (4) Grotius’ use of sources and his relation to contemporary developments in Antiquarianism; and (5) the important role of historical perspectives in his other works such as De Jure Belli and the Annotationes on the New Testament.
Connecting sociability with arguments about self-interest and natural law, Grotius adopted an account of moral knowledge and motivation for justice that he found in Cicero. For Grotius, sociability serves as a counter to Epicurean views of moral motivation, but it does not by itself provide the grounds of validity of natural law, nor does it alone ground the obligatory force of natural law. Rather, sociability represents an appeal to a basis in human nature for cooperation in the state of nature. Human beings according to Grotius can be motivated to cooperate and adhere to the rules of natural law, but they are not necessarily so motivated. Importantly, Grotius appreciates that sociability creates its own problems, which Grotius believes can be solved by reason alone. For Grotius, the basis of sociability in human nature is not merely instinctual, but also rational; sociability is ultimately based on a respect for the rights to ‘first things’ such as private property, a respect which itself is motivated by right reason. The notion of sociability was to have an important future in the works of later thinkers such as Hobbes, Pufendorf, Shaftesbury, Mandeville, Hutcheson, Hume, Smith and Kant.
This chapter looks at the future of people assessment. Like many other areas of business there have been many, and rapid, technology-led changes. There are questions about who are or should be assessed; when and how they are assessed; the cost and legal changes in assessment; and how data is stored. The quiet world of academic-led assessment and testing has been ‘invaded’ by people in business eager to sell psychological testing and assessment to a much larger market. Inevitably there are enthusiasts and sceptics: the former claiming how AI computer and neuro-science technology will revolutionise the ease, cost and accuracy of assessment, while the sceptics argue there is still very little evidence for these claims. It certainly is a ‘good time to be alive’ for those interested in people assessment.
Francis Gentleman recorded that David Garrick’s performance of Thomas Otway's Jaffeir ‘beggars description, by an amazing variety of transitions, tones and picturesque attitudes’. I use Gentleman's commentary to introduce here the concept of transition with respect to three things: theatrical practice, theories of the passions, and the eighteenth-century understanding of the mind in wonder. My argument throughout is that the identification of transitions leads to simultaneous recognition of the iconic and dynamic qualities of an object.
An important line of response to scepticism appeals to the best explanation. But anti-sceptics have not engaged much with work on explanation in the philosophy of science. I plan to investigate whether plausible assumptions about best explanations really do favour anti-scepticism. I will argue that there are ways of constructing sceptical hypotheses in which the assumptions do favour anti-scepticism, but the size of the support for anti-scepticism is small.
At Against the Mathematicians (M) 2.10 Sextus Empiricus defines technê along Stoic lines, as (a) an organized system of knowledge (b) directed towards an end useful for life. This raises a question. Does the sceptic’s own art satisfy conditions (a) and (b) and thereby qualify as a technê? This is not an idle question. For if it turns out that the sceptic’s art does qualify as a technê, then one might reasonably ask whether, on pain of inconsistency, Sextus ought not to train his guns on the sceptic’s art just as he trains his guns on the liberal arts of grammar, rhetoric, geometry, arithmetic, astrology and music in M 1–6. The chapter explore the different possible answers that can be given to the question and argues that, though scepticism satisfies condition (b) for a technê, it fails to satisfy condition (a). While skepticism has eudaimonistic use, in that establishes ‘unperturbedness’ (ataraxia), not fixed target or subject matter like technai proper, but one that changes according to dialectical context. Skeptic art has then an asystematic subject matter. Scepticism is, therefore, a non-technical art that differs fundamentally from the kinds of technai Sextus discusses, and attacks, in M 1–6.
Sextus Empiricus brings his discussion of the so-called ‘liberal arts’ (Math. 1–6) to a close by attacking the epistemic and therapeutic pretences of a would-be science of musicology. He presents two kinds of arguments that bring about and preserve a state of suspension of judgement about the claims of those who profess knowledge in this domain. First, he borrows material from Epicureans purporting to establish that expertise in matters of music holds no prospects for a happy life. Second, he argues that fundamental notions of music theory do not correspond to anything in reality, and thus that the science itself does not exist. The emerging Sextan critique of musicology provides an interesting angle on the Pyrrhonian project as well as on Sextus’ authorial methods. In this paper, I present the agenda of the treatise as being compatible with Pyrrhonism as described in Sextus’ Outlines (Section 1), discuss the arguments employed by Sextus (Sections 2–4), and argue that the treatise does not support readings according to which his treatment of music requires Sextus to abandon the suspensive stance (Section 5).
This chapter not only explores the efflorescence of ‘new’ visions that occurred, especially, but not only, in the British Isles, during the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, it also traces the reproduction of early medieval visions too, arguing that the slow evolution of ‘purgatory’ from early medieval origins facilitated their continued use. Change is nonetheless to be found in this period. There was renewed sensitivity to old anxieties about the authenticity of visions. There was a fresh flux of debate about conceptualisations of the afterlife that were so strongly material. And, most especially, new theological and pastoral priorities were imprinted on vision-texts, which were subtly reshaped by shifting thinking about penitence and prayer. The chapter examines some of the most ‘popular’ visions, measured in terms of manuscript circulation, but it also reconstructs something of the range of visionary experiences too, taking into account narratives that were little attended in their day.
This chapter traces the history of the Scottish school of common-sense philosophy from c.1720 to 1828. It begins by examining the teaching of George Turnbull and his fellow regents at Marischal College, Aberdeen, in order to shed light on the early philosophical development of the so-called founder of the school, Thomas Reid. It next analyses the evolution of Reid’s critique of Humean scepticism and the theory of ideas in the years preceding the publication of his An Inquiry into the Human Mind, on the Principles of Common Sense (1764). Reid’s appeal to common sense is then compared and contrasted with those of James Beattie and James Oswald, whose writings, along with Reid’s Inquiry, were attacked by Joseph Priestley and other critics in the 1770s. Following a consideration of Reid’s response to Priestley in his Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man (1785), the chapter discusses Dugald Stewart’s reformulation of Reid’s conception of common sense and his genealogy of the Scottish school of philosophy. Lastly it charts the collapse of the common-sense school around the time of Stewart’s death in 1828.
What role does ordinary-language philosophy play in the defence of common-sense beliefs? J. L. Austin and Ludwig Wittgenstein each give central place to ordinary language in their responses to sceptical challenges to common-sense beliefs. But Austin and Wittgenstein do not always respond to such challenges in the same way, and their working methods are different. This chapter compares Austin’s and Wittgenstein’s metaphilosophical positions and shows that they share many metaphilosophical commitments. It then examines Austin’s and Wittgenstein’s respective takes on the problem of other minds and the problem of our knowledge of the external world. Interestingly, we find Wittgenstein employing methods more frequently associated with Austin and vice versa. Moreover, we find that a variety of defences of common-sense beliefs are compatible with ordinary-language philosophy.
The common-sense tradition holds that among the things we know are various facts about the external world and some epistemic facts – for example, that we know there are other people, that people know their names, and that we know that they know their names. This chapter makes two claims. First, that the common-sense tradition should include among the things known various common-sense moral claims as well as various particular moral claims that are no less evident. Second, that these moral claims are more reasonable to believe than any philosophical view that implies either that they are false or that we do not know them. In short, it suggests that the common-sense philosopher should treat some moral claims as having the same weight as some epistemic claims and claims about the external world. The last three sections consider some philosophical objections to this view. These include the objections that no evaluative claims are true or false, that we cannot know particular moral claims without knowing some general moral criterion, and that the appeal to our moral intuitions is illegitimate in philosophical inquiry.
The discoveries of the new science of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries offered unique challenges to philosophers concerned with answering scepticism or with defending common-sense beliefs. This chapter focuses on how Descartes, Locke, and Berkeley took up those challenges. Descartes’s philosophical project brought to the forefront the tensions embedded in the confrontation between common sense, science, and scepticism. His insistence on raising the strongest sceptical doubts and on answering them with absolute certainty often left common-sense beliefs behind. Confronted with this result, and perhaps also with Descartes’s own failure to answer the sceptic, Locke weakened both the force of his own scepticism and the degree of certainty he demanded in his philosophical views. Moreover, he was often willing to privilege common-sense beliefs over arguments conflicting with them. In these ways, he provided a system which reconciled common sense, science, and scepticism more adequately than Descartes. Berkeley, convinced that his predecessors’ work left the sceptic unscathed, developed views which, he claimed, completed this reconciliation project. But the chapter shows that his views fall short of this goal. The work of these philosophers put in place the foundations upon which later thinkers would tackle this reconciliation challenge.
In his 1925 paper ‘A Defence of Common Sense’, G. E. Moore set out his ‘Common Sense view of the World’ as a series of ‘truisms’ about himself and the world. Moore then claims (1) that our common-sense truisms are largely true, and (2) that we know that our common-sense truisms are largely true. In his writings Moore defends (1) against philosophers who argue that common sense is no guide to the nature of reality by distinguishing between the ordinary meaning of his common-sense truisms (which is unproblematic) and their analysis (which is often doubtful). He defends (2) against sceptics by arguing that the assessment of claims to knowledge has to respect the framework of deep common-sense beliefs which shape our evidence. This chapter argues that Moore’s defence of (1) is not persuasive but that the defence of (2) includes important contributions to epistemology.
In dialogue with the British empiricist tradition of Berkeley and Hume, Borges engages in an illuminating critique of their idealism, in the early essays ’Berkeley’s Crossroads’ and ’The Nothingness of Personality’ and especially in ’Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’. This chapter juxtaposes ’Tlon...’ with passages from ’A Treatise on Human Nature’, observing that in Hume a sceptical outlook hardly ever gives way to gloomy melancholy; indeed, it is balanced by humour and moderation. In ’A New Refutation of Time’, Borges carries Berkeleyan immaterialism to its ultimate consequences, using the arguments of idealism to deny temporal series. This portrayal of time highlights human life rooted in contradiction, reflected in the very Borgesian qualities of paradox and irony.
This paper offers a new interpretation of the young Spinoza’s method of distinguishing the true ideas from the false, which shows that his answer to the sceptic is not a failure. This method combines analysis and synthesis as follows: if we can say of the object of an idea (a) which simple things underlie it, (b) how it can be constructed out of simple elements, and (c) what properties it has after it has been produced, doubt concerning the object simply makes no sense. The paper also suggests a way in which this methodology connects to the ontology of the Ethics.
The impact of David Hume’s philosophy on modern philosophy in general and on Scottish philosophy in particular is closely conncected to his scepticism. The paper provides a detailed account of his exposition of the different meanings of scepticism in An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, discusses some aspects of Hume’s epistemological scepticism in the Treatise of Human Nature that cannot be found in the Enquiry, reconstructs the basic elements of Thomas Reid s critique of Hume’s scepticism as well as Reid’s concept of common sense, and finally compares the positions of Hume and Reid. Although both Reid and Hume were engaged in what they took to be the ‘anatomy’ or ‘geography’ of the human mind, there were decisive differences between them, in particular concerning their concepts of ‘common sense’.
Religion was a central concern of the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment with David Humes sceptical engagement with religion earning him the reputation of being an infidel. Accordingly, this chapter falls into three parts. The first explores the state of the subject before Hume wrote, distinguishing between an orthodox tradition for which theology was the primary science that could dictate terms of reference to philosophy, and a new, largely imported (English and Dutch), tradition of rational religion that subjected the whole framework of religious belief to the same rational critique as other forms of knowledge and belief. With the context established, the second part of the chapter will concern Hume, represented especially by two essays in his Philosophical Essays (later called An Enquiry) concerning Human Understanding (1748), his Natural History of Religion (1757), and his Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (first published in 1779 but known to some in manuscript from the 1750s). His Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40) was the seminal work that first presented his sceptical philosophy and its supporting psychology, and it had implications for religious as for any other belief; these implications were suppressed prior to publication, but were not lost on contemporaries who expected an analysis of the human mind to culminate as a matter of course in an account of the foundations of religious belief. The final part of the chapter will summarise the Scottish and English response to Hume in the debate over a rational theology. In his appraisal of arguments for the existence and attributes of God, and arguments about the credibility of ancient revelation, Hume s philosophy almost inevitably brought him into conflict with ministers of the Kirk.
Crispin Wright maintains that the architecture of perceptual justification is such that we can acquire justification for our perceptual beliefs only if we have antecedent justification for ruling out any sceptical alternative. Wright contends that this principle doesn't elicit scepticism, for we are non-evidentially entitled to accept the negation of any sceptical alternative. Sebastiano Moruzzi has challenged Wright's contention by arguing that since our non-evidential entitlements don't remove the epistemic risk of our perceptual beliefs, they don't actually enable us to acquire justification for these beliefs. In this paper I show that Wright's responses to Moruzzi are ineffective and that Moruzzi's argument is validated by probabilistic reasoning. I also suggest that Wright couldn't answer Moruzzi's challenge without weakening the support available for his conception of the architecture of perceptual justification.
The chapter examines Chaucer’s attitude to the Church, and to the demands of living the Christian life in fourteenth-century England. The seeming double-mindedness of his scathing criticism of religious professionals, and yet his deeply held faith, arose from a desire to ask what it is to be a Christian. Taking up Chaucer’s own quest, the chapter asks how Christian was late medieval society, what was required of the ordinary parishioner in terms of practice and belief, and what opportunities were available for people to go beyond these basic expectations in their efforts to attain salvation? There were choices to be made but also many limitations upon the ordinary believer. So not everyone agreed on how best to reach heaven, and there were cultural as well as social gulfs that undermined the ideal of a unified Church. These were problems of which Chaucer seems to have been acutely aware.
What is ‘heresy’? One answer would be, ‘that which orthodoxy condemns as such’; though we may also wish to consider when conscious dissent invites such a condemnation. The main ‘heresy’ in late medieval England was that usually termed Lollardy, understood to be inspired by the radical theological thought of John Wyclif (1328-1384), which among other things emphasised the overwhelmingly importance of Scripture, and of lay access to Scripture, through vernacular translation. Orthodox repression of heresy began in the late fourteenth century and developed in various ways in the fifteenth. There are small traces of these much wider battles in Chaucer’s oeuvre, but it would be very hard to say quite how he saw them. We might instead see the fluidity of attitude toward aspects of religion in Chaucer as a sign of his times. ‘Dissent’ can encompass more than that which is solidly decried as heresy, and ‘orthodoxy’ can turn out to be more than one mode of religious thought and expression.